Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc
SPCE NYSE

SPCE
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc NYSE
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Jun 092021

Space race

Some people buy a lakehouse when they retire – some, apparently, go to space. The world’s billionaires are in a space race of their own, and Virgin Galactic reaps the rewards this week with a price jump of 18%.

It’s the battle of the billionaires and Richard Branson’s baby, Virgin Galactic, is currently on the winning end of a fiery competition between its CEO and Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin founder Bezos announced on Monday that he would be among the first people to go to the edge of space on the company’s new spaceship. Though Branson quickly jumped on the “Congratulations” train, he also promptly warned his followers to “watch this space”.

Things heated up when reports hit that VG was working on a plan that’d put Branson aboard the very next rocket: due to take flight on the 4th of July weekend. Blue Origin is due to take off on July 20, so at the moment it’s looking like Branson might have stolen a march on Bezos. Unless he can hitch a ride to space in the next three weeks...

Who doesn't love a bit of healthy competition?
May 242021
💫

We have lift-off

Virgin Galactic, and its share price, is shooting for the stars. The company ended the week with a sweet 20% increase as its next Spaceflight test finally took place over the weekend.

Virgin Galactic stock shot up with a 15% increase on Thursday as the space tourism company shared that it had completed the maintenance review of its carrier aircraft and would be holding its next spaceflight on Saturday, May 22. The news was received with enthusiasm and investors breathed a sigh of relief, as Virgin Galactic had warned earlier this month that the flight could be further delayed, knocking 20% of its share price.

All of the fuss is to complete development of the company’s SpaceShipTwo system, and there are four test flights left before commercial travel can even begin. After two rescheduled trips, seems like the third time’s a charm, and this time we finally got lift-off on May 22. Two pilots took Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity out on the open air, marking its first successful flight in two years. Richard Branson isn't the only billionaire bouncing into commercial space travel, so he’d better hurry up and get his new baby on its feet – because Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin recently completed its own testflight, and Elon Musks’ SpaceX has already announced its first all-civilian mission to space.

We think our experience will be one that people prefer, but obviously we’ll have competition. We believe the market is gigantic out there, so neither of us will ever be able to build enough spaceships to cope with demand.

said Richard Branson.
May 102021

Will we ever see Virgin in space?

Virgin Galactic stock falls back to earth after bigger losses than expected in Q1, and there’s still no update on its upcoming spaceflight test.

It doesn’t look like Richard Branson’s space baby is off to the moon anytime soon, and it just posted yet another bad earnings report. The company reported a first quarter loss of $0.55, down from a loss of $1.86 per share the same period last year, and very much missing the mark on estimates, which were looking for a loss per share of $0.27. Its adjusted EBITDA loss was $55.9 million, down slightly from the $63.6 it reported last quarter, but still a disappointement. As with the prior quarter, VG reported a whole $0 in revenue, and as of the end of Q1 only has about $617 million in cash on hand, down from $666 million in Q4 of last year. Shares lost almost 9% in anticipation of the release, and fell a further 7% in after hours trading.

In terms of operations, the space company still hasn’t yet set a target date for its upcoming spaceflight – originally planned for this month. Mike Moses, President of Space Missions (man, that’s some job title) said on Monday’s call with investors that the uncertainty facing its spaceflight test stemmed largely from “a potential wear-and-tear issue” that the company identified last week on the aircraft that carries the spacecraft before launch, the VMS Eve. The part in question was due for maintenance in the Fall, but the aircraft is still being studied to see what action is needed.

Virgin Galactic stock is down 24% year to date, having fallen swiftly from its highs of $60 in February. Losses were accelerated because of continued delays to its test program, along with share sales from Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder Richard Branson, and Cathie Wood’s Space ETF debut. However, the fourth spaceflight test is expected to bring in $2 million in revenue, so hopefully things will be looking up soon.

“We continue to make strides towards our strategic objectives and have solid momentum as we focus on completing our flight test program,”

said CEO Michael Colglazier.

“We are committed to delivering one of the world's most unique and transformational customer experiences, with safety at the core of everything we do. Our greatest asset is our incredibly talented group of employees, and the strength of the leadership team we have assembled for the next phase of our journey."

Uh huh.
May 062021
🚀

Houston, we have a problem...

Virgin Galactic stock plummets almost 10% on news that its rival, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin (oh, we do love a billionaire throwdown), will be making its first human test flight in July. Bet Branson’s glad he got rid of all that stock last month.

It's the Space Race 2.0, except this time it’s two tycoons racing it out to the moon – and it looks like Bezos might be winning. His rocket company, Blue Origin, announced on Wednesday that it’s aiming to do its first suborbital sightseeing trip on the New Shepard spacecraft – a landmark moment in the competition to usher in a new era of private (and, at a guess, highly lucrative) commercial space travel. The company also announced the auction of one seat on the trip, and prices are already going stratospheric – expected to reach up to $500k (and cheap at the price – just think of the Insta pics!)

Shares of Virgin Galactic originally gained slightly as people clicked that if Origin Blue could make half a mill on a seat, Virgin probably could too. Ka-ching. But eventually, the prospect that Blue Origin could cancel out Virgin Galactic’s first-mover advantage in the space tourism market sank shares by over 4%.

“Blue Origin threw down the gauntlet on positioning itself to be (potentially) the first suborbital space tourism company with a paying passenger,”

wrote UBS analyst Myles Walton in a note to investors.

Virgin Galactic’s space plane, called SpaceShipTwo (original, huh?) and flown by two pilots, has carried humans to space in test flights before, but has yet to take any paying passengers, making Origin Blue the first. In February, Virgin also decided to postpone a few of SpaceShipTwo’s test flights from February to May, delaying the forecasted launch of its commercial services to 2022. That’s around about the same time most of its competitors are planning to debut commercial space flights, so you can see why investors are kinda worried about the firm falling behind. Even founder Richard Branson seems a little nervous, unloading $150 million in Virgin Galactic stock in April, leaving him with 24% of the stake and sending stocks falling back to earth.

The share price has lost over 19% this year, erasing its earlier gains from February, when it almost doubled to above $60 a share.
Apr 162021

Richard Branson dumps shares

Virgin Galactic is falling back down to earth, erasing its 2021 gains with a 12% loss following news that founder Richard Branson just dumped $150 million in shares.

Sir Richard Branson, who already controls the rest of the Virgin group, took the space tourism company (which has yet to take a tourist to space) public in 2019 through a SPAC merger with Chamath Palihapitiya's venture Social Capital Hedosophia. But the billionaire is having to tap back into his biggest listed asset to prop up his Virgin empire during COVID-19. Branson sold over $150 million worth of stock over the past week, adding to the $500 million he dumped last year in the face of the pandemic.

Virgin intends to use the net proceeds from this sale to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that continue to be affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, in addition to supporting the development and growth of new and existing businesses

Virgin Group said.

The whole group has taken a hit, with its airlines getting the worst of it – Virgin Atlantic was forced to cut 3,500 of its 10,000 employees, although it did receive a £1.2 billion rescue plan that should help secure its future.

Branson isn't the only exec who has reduced his stake in Virgin Galactic though. In early March, chairman Chamath Palihapitiya sold his entire remaining stake for over $200 million to invest in climate change technology. Prices were already feeling the pressure last week, down almost 10% at the start after one of its main competitors, Jeff Bezos' private space company Blue Origin, launched and landed the 15th successful test flight of its New Shepard rocket booster and capsule.

Virgin Galactic has plans to fly Richard Branson into space in early 2021, but announced on its most recent earnings call that it had postponed its commercial space travel until 2022. All is not lost though, as the company already has a backlog of around 600 customer reservations for tickets (sold for up to $250,000 per person) and has started taking deposits, so clearly people are full of faith.

For us to make the business start to scale, at the places that we’re aspiring towards, we need two things: We need many more ships than we have right now and we also need the ships that we bring forward to be built in a way that they’re able to be maintained in a way that we can have much quicker than what we have with Unity

said CEO Michael Colglazier.
NMA/Jarle Naustvik / Flickr
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